Amidst the current news cycle’s fascination with tax returns and Snoop Dogg, a new report digs a little deeper into the growing sense of paranoia felt by many in Donald Trump’s White House. Previous stories about the so-called “deep state” of bureaucrats and civil servants leftover from the previous administration, which Sean Spicer perpetrated in a press briefing, have allegedly fueled procedural moves like Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to suddenly ask for 46 U.S. attorneys’ resignations. (Not to mention Spicer’s supposed phone checks — an effort to discourage repeated staff leaks to the press.)
According to Politico, however, the current mood in the White House is a whole lot worse than previously suspected. “People are scared,” an anonymous senior administration official told the outlet. As for the administration itself, they continued, it has become “a pretty hostile environment to work in.” Another aide said they were “paranoid,” adding “anything significant seems to be on the front page the next day.”
Unsurprisingly, all of Politico’s sources spoke with reporters on the condition of anonymity. Considering the extreme sense of fear they all described, however, their caution is totally understandable:
Aides are going to great lengths to protect themselves. They’re turning off work-issued smartphones and putting them in drawers when they arrive home from work out of fear that they could be used to eavesdrop. They’re staying mum in meetings out of concern that their comments could be leaked to the press by foes.
Yet when asked about the matter, another a White House official told Politico no such culture exists in the current administration. What’s more, many polled anonymously (and per Spicer’s previous comments on the matter) suggested the real culprit behind these concerns is the deep state. That is, “career intelligence operatives” who “are working to undermine the new president through a series of leaks of classified information.”
This sentiment was expressed not only by many of Politico’s sources, but also by Sid Bowdidge — the former massage therapist turned Energy Department appointee who was let go after old social media posts of his criticizing Obama were unearthed. Instead of blaming it on the White House’s apparently pervasive culture of paranoia, Bowdidge identified anti-Trump bureaucrats as the real culprits. “A lot of these career folks were put in there over the last eight years, they’re Obama supporters,” he claimed. “By and large, they hate Trump.”
But with just as many administration members supposedly resorting to using encrypted messaging apps and other discreet methods of communications, it seems the White House is harming itself just as much (if not more) than the supposed deep state would. As one Republican official who uses the aforementioned app put it, “I wouldn’t call it paranoia under the circumstances. It’s not paranoia if people really are out to get you, and everybody actually is out to get everyone else.”